|by Peter Sobczynski
Please enjoy short reviews of "Along Came the Devil," "Nico 1988" and "Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood."
As a general rule, if you are making a film that is nothing more than a blatant ripoff of a well-known hit, you should probably avoid actually citing it by name in your own project unless you have somehow managed to come up with an exceptionally clever way of doing it. And yet, we are barely 10 minutes into ''Along Came the Devil,'' a less-than-subtle knockoff of ''The Exorcist,'' when teenaged central character Ashley (Sydney Sweety) is asked by a friend who is into the paranormal if she has ever seen the 1973 horror classic. She hasn't which is lucky for her since it means that she, unlike the audience, who won't see every single plot development coming from a mile away. Having escaped a sketchily drawn abusive home situation and now living with her aunt (Jessica Barth), Ashley is plunged into a new realm of trouble when she begins to see and hear what she believes is the spirit of her long-dead mother. Alas, it turns out to be a demon that causes the once-prim girl into a foul-mouthed refugee from an old Britney Spears video as increasingly disturbing things begin happening to her and her friends. In news that will shock you, an old priest (Bruce Davison) and a young priest ( Matt Dallas) turn up to drive the demon out in a theoretically titanic battle for Ashley's soul.
To be fair, the film is not entirely a carbon copy of ''The Exorcist''--that film, which I must confess has never really worked for me in the way that it has with so many others over the years, was at least made with undeniable craft and care and seriousness of purpose. For this one, director/co-writer Jason DeVan has boldly decided to show us what that film would have been like without any of those ingredients. Instead, we get the usual array of badly timed ''BOO!'' moments and gross-out bits that have been seen in dozens of ''Exorcist'' riffs over the years that conclude with something that could only be considered an ending only in the loosest dictionary definition imaginable. Frankly, the creepiest scene occurs long before the possession even begins and involves Ashley and the young priest meeting for the first time--in a candy store no less--and engaging in banter that is more off-putting than anything else on display. The presence of this scene is all the more baffling because there is at least one seemingly important sequence, Ashley's first demon-induced freakout in school, that is vaguely referred to by other but never actually seen or explained--did DeVan shoot it and cut it, forgetting to remove the later references to it, or did he forget to even film it in the first place? One thing is for certain--years, or even days, from now, no self-respecting teen is ever going to ask a friend if they have ever seen ''Along Came the Devil.''
Anyone going into ''Nico 1988'' expecting a straightforward musical biopic chronicling the life and times of Christa Paffgen, who achieved cult notoriety in the late Sixties when she, then known as Nico, sang a few tunes with the legendary band The Velvet Underground on their classic ''The Velvet Underground and Nico'' album before embarking on her own haphazard, if occasionally brilliant, solo career, is going to come away from it very surprised. Instead of watching the young Nico dallying with the likes of such contemporaries as Lou Reed and Andy Warhol (who are glimpsed only via brief snippets of old home movie footage shot by Jonas Mekas), it instead focuses exclusively on the last couple of years of Nico's life (she passed away in 1988, the result of a bike accident) and follows her (played by Trine Dyrholm) on what seems to be an endless cycle of scoring and shooting heroin, giving interviews in which she wishes for more questions about her current work and fewer about the past, trying to care for the suicidal son that she had with actor Alain Delon (who refused to acknowledge the child as his) and playing one sparsely attended gig after another.
Like Nico's own music, this film from writer-director Susanna Nicchiarelli will no doubt come across as an acquired taste with some finding it to be a droning docudrama based around a not-especially-likable central character. For me, the film does work, almost entirely due to the performance by Dyrholm--although she does not bear even the slightest physical resemblance to the real Paffgen, she embodies her so thoroughly through her acting that you get the feeling at times that you are watching the real woman going through the motions of her life (and to prove this, check out the 1995 documentary ''Nico Icon'' for comparison). ''Nico 1988'' is not a particularly fun movie to watch but it is indeed a fascinating one and, if nothing else, it should inspire most viewers, if they haven't already, to go back and revise the Nico discography for themselves to see that there was more to her musical career than those three VU songs.
You never saw the name Scotty Bowers during the credits of any movies but it could easily be argued that during the Golden Age of Hollywood, he was as much of a legend, albeit in a sub rosa manner, as any of the matinee idols of the time. After serving several tours of duty in World War II, he got a job at a Hollywood Boulevard gas station where, as he recounts, he met actor Walter Pidgeon, who invited him up to his house and to his bed. Duly inspired, he began to use the gas station as a base of operations where he, with the help of a number of young men and women that he recruited, would help facilitate sexual encounters of all stripes for the most famous names in Hollywood that would have destroyed countless careers if word had gotten out. According to Bowers, the encounters would cost $20 and he never accepted a penny for his services--he was just in it for the fun. Considering that he claims to have had personal assignations with Cary Grant, George Cukor, Spencer Tracy, Vivien Leigh, Lana Turner and Ava Gardner (the last two at the same time), that is some fun indeed. Bowers eventually recounted his story in the 2012 memoir ''Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Life of the Stars.''
That book has just been optioned to be turned into a movie itself but until it finally gets made, we have ''Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood,'' a documentary by Matt Tyrnauer in which Bowers, now in his 90s, reflects on his past life and glories, occasionally reuniting with some of his colleagues from back in the day. Mixed in with these reminiscences are clips from old Hollywood classics in which the secrets of the stars are practically bursting forth with every now-charged line of dialogue or image (cue the inevitable bit from ''Bringing Up Baby'' where a peignoir-clad Cary Grant exclaims ''I just went gay all of a sudden!'') Watching Bowers cheerfully recounting his past will no doubt be amusing and eyebrow-raising for students of classic Hollywood in the same way that it can be fun to leaf through a copy of Kenneth Angerís equally salacious history ''Hollywood Babylon.'' The problem is that while Tyrnauer clearly adores Bowers as a subject, he seems oddly reticent to probe Bowers and his rosy recollections to get at any of the darker stuff involving him and his Hollywood connections that must have occurred at some point. Bowers is a little more open when talking about things not involving stars--he movingly speaks of the daughter who died following a botched abortion--but even when he talks about being molested as a child, he looks upon it only as a completely positive experience that helped to make him the guy that he became. Nevertheless, ''Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood'' is entertaining, albeit in an ultimately superficial manner, and I guarantee that after watching it, you will never look at the old Tracy-Hepburn movies in the same way again.
link directly to this feature at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/feature.php?feature=4139
originally posted: 08/10/18 13:53:54
last updated: 08/11/18 11:48:12